CONTROVERSIAL plans to turn a building into a community centre and 'mosque' have been approved by the borough council.

Campaigners sparked a protest last week after Reading Borough Council was advised to allow Equity House in School Road, Tilehurst, to approve the plans.

Racist chants could be heard as groups clashed over the proposals on Saturday, April 21.

Residents said previously they opposed 'parking jihad' and flyers were distributed around Tilehurst asking residents to object to a mosque.

In fact, more than 700 objections were filed to the council's planning team and scores of campaigners attended a public meeting on the plans tonight (Wednesday).

The meeting heard how 43 per cent of the objections related to traffic congestion and parking.

But despite heavy opposition from residents and campaigners, councillors approved the proposals, providing strict parking and sound conditions are followed.

Marian Livingston, chairman of the planning committee, said: "By a substantial majority we grant the application.”

Objectors said that noise disturbance coming from the building has already kept residents awake late at night.

Nick Brailsford said: "Due to the potential number of attendees and hours of use in this change of use, it seems unsympathetic to existing residents.

"I speak on behalf of the 775 residents who have already signed the public petition."

Residents were represented by Gavin Pearce, a lawyer who specialises in the opposition of mosques.

He goes by the name of ‘Mosque Buster’ on social media.

Mr Pearce told the meeting: “People are objecting on good grounds.

“Now is the time for you to do your duty as elected people and reject this application.”

However, Cllr Ricky Duveen, ward member for Tilehurst, accused Mr Pearce, otherwise known as Gavin Boby, of stirring hatred by distributing leaflets and organising a protest.

He added: “It appears as soon as word spread that it attracted the Islamophobic rabble rousers.

“The brains behind the leaflets was a so called ‘Mosque Buster’ from Bristol. You can tell what he is about from his website.

“He and his cronies descended on Tilehurst with the intent to stir up hatred.”

The official planning application was submitted by Zainabiya Welfare Foundation (ZWF), which currently owns the building.

Officers said the proposed parking strategy, which will include permits, are acceptable to the council.

The group said the building will be used as a community centre and will not be a dedicated mosque.

In an outburst from the public gallery, one member of the public accused the applicant of lying on the application.

Speaking on behalf of ZWF, Hussein Haidry said: “We have been listening to any complaints.

“We have a parking management plan in place.

“We request that neighbours work with us to make it work for both of us.

“If we don’t listen and we don’t adjust ourselves, then you can say we don’t understand and we don’t consider ourselves as part of the community.”

Plans for the building include space for worship, training, education and meetings.

Mumtaz Ali, trustee of ZWF, said he was delighted with the decision.

He added: "I would like to thank everyone who has supported us."